Brock Turner was convicted in March of three felony sex abuse charges for assaulting an unconscious woman on Stanford University's campus, and last week was sentenced to six months of jail time and three years probation, although he could have received a decade in state prison.
More than 100,000 people have signed a petition demanding the judge in the case, Aaron Persky, be removed from the bench over the sentence. The case's prosecutors have said the "punishment does not fit the crime." Turner's father, meanwhile, has argued that the ex-Stanford swimmer's life has been ruined over "20 minutes of action."
But if it weren't for two strangers riding bikes on campus that night, Turner might not be spending a single day in jail.
"I can't understate how important those two heroes were in this case," Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Alaleh Kianerci told The Huffington Post on Monday.
Few reports of sexual assault ever lead to prosecution, let alone prison time. Between 8 and 37 percent of rapes result in prosecution, according to one study funded by the Department of Justice. National estimates suggest that for every 100 rapes, only five rapists will go to prison.
Many campus rape cases aren't prosecuted because there aren't witnesses and because victims can have imperfect memory of what happened, particularly when alcohol is involved. For example, Turner's victim was unconscious when police found her, and she had no recollection of the assault. Her blood alcohol level was three times the legal limit for driving.
And so it's possible there never would have been any charges pressed against Turner if it weren't for Stanford graduate students Peter Jonsson and Carl Fredrik Arndt.
Without their intervention, "we wouldn't know who the perpetrator was," Kianerci said. "Those two heroes made this case a prosecutable one."
“I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed to remind myself there are heroes in this story."”
Just before 1 a.m. on Jan. 18, 2015, Jonsson and Arndt were riding their bikes along a path near the Kappa Alpha fraternity. Jonsson told the cops that movement by a dumpster caught his eye, and he saw a guy on top of a female who was lying on her back, according to a police report.
At first, Jonsson and Arndt assumed the interaction was consensual. But Jonsson said he noticed that the female wasn't moving as he peddled by. "Something seemed weird," he told police, because the woman appeared to be unconscious.
Jonsson and Arndt approached the dumpster and yelled "Hey" to the guy who was later revealed to be Turner. He took off running, according to the police report. Jonsson realized the woman was passed out and chased after Turner, eventually catching and tripping him, the police report said.
Officers responded to a call about an unconscious female near the Kappa Alpha fraternity about 10 minutes later, according to the report, and found Jonsson and Arndt holding Turner on the ground. Witnesses told police that Turner had possibly sexually assaulted the woman who was lying next to the dumpster. Her dress was pulled up and her underwear was missing.
The cops arrested Turner at the scene for attempted rape, and he acknowledged in an interview that he had penetrated the woman's vagina with his fingers, according to the report. The woman did not regain consciousness until 4:15 a.m., and had no memory of the assault.
While giving his statement recounting what happened at the scene, Jonsson got so upset he began to cry on several occasions, the police report said. "He said it was a very disturbing event for him to witness and be involved in, but he just reacted to the situation at hand without really thinking," the report noted.
Turner's defense later argued in court that the sexual activity was consensual, and that Turner didn't know at which point the woman became unconscious. Turner said in court that he also was very drunk.
"Here’s the thing; if your plan was to stop only when I became unresponsive, then you still do not understand," the victim said to Turner in her impact statement, read in court before sentencing. "You didn’t even stop when I was unconscious anyway! Someone else stopped you. Two guys on bikes noticed I wasn’t moving in the dark and had to tackle you. How did you not notice while on top of me?"
Colleges and universities nationwide are rolling out training on this sort of action by Good Samaritans, called bystander intervention. Usually the programs focus on less extreme situations, like when a guy appears to be groping or taking advantage of a heavily intoxicated woman at a party, with the approach that it could stop things from escalating into a forcible sexual assault, as Turner committed. But the basic idea is the same: If you see something, say or do something to interrupt it.
Jonsson and Arndt have not given media interviews. Kianerci said they did not hesitate to provide testimony in the trial, but have generally tried to avoid the limelight. She hopes this case can teach others about the importance of intervening if they see something suspicious.
Turner was convicted of assault with intent to commit rape of an intoxicated woman, which means that he likely would have penetrated his victim with his penis had no one interrupted. The police report noted that when the officer found Turner being pinned down, he appeared to have an erection.
But Jonsson and Arndt made a difference by stopping to help someone they didn't know. Turner will be a registered sex offender even though he won't be going to prison.
In her statement read in court, the victim thanked "the two men who saved me, who I have yet to meet."
"I sleep with two bicycles that I drew taped above my bed to remind myself there are heroes in this story," she said. "That we are looking out for one another. To have known all of these people, to have felt their protection and love, is something I will never forget."
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